Attorney wants Newell case heard by nonresidents

June 03, 1998|By AMY WALLAUER

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The attorney for a man charged in the abduction and death of his 7-year-old niece is satisfied the prosecutor's office has turned over all the evidence against his client, but he doesn't want a Berkeley County jury to hear it.

At a hearing Wednesday in Berkeley County Circuit Court, Michael Newell's attorney, Aaron Amore, and Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely went over the evidence to be presented against Newell at his July 6 murder and kidnapping trial.

At a hearing June 17, the court will decide if the evidence will be presented to a Berkeley County jury or a group from outside the area.

Newell, 40, of Winchester Pike in Martinsburg, is charged with murder and kidnapping in the abduction and death of Jessica Newell.


Amore argues excessive media coverage and the nature of the crime will make finding impartial jurors here impossible.

"There is a prevailing and overwhelming prejudice against him in this and surrounding counties," Amore wrote in a petition. "The nature of the crime, the young age and the relation to the victim, coupled with the intense media coverage, have established a bias against Mr. Newell such that it would be impossible to seat a fair and impartial jury."

If the change of venue is granted, the trial will be moved to a neighboring county or jurors from a different area will be sent to Berkeley County.

Jessica was reported missing on Sept. 18, 1997, from Pikeside Bowl, where she had gone with her parents. Her body was found two days later on North Mountain.

If the change of venue is granted, it would be cheaper for the county to select jurors elsewhere and sequester them in Berkeley County for the week-long trial, rather than transport the 80 or so witnesses for the prosecution, Games-Neely said.

But she believes it won't come to that.

"Realistically, it doesn't matter if I try this case here or on the moon. The results will be the same," Games-Neely said.

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